And then suddenly, you realize that the things that were so important before mean so little to you now

That’s when you know you’ve grown up, I think.

Along with that realization comes another – that a very normal and necessary yet very inconvenient part of youth is the tendency to prioritize all the wrong things. We’ve all dreamed of dreams that are too small for us, we’ve all pursued ideals that meet very low standards, and we’ve all been clueless and misguided in at least one point in our lives. And it’s funny because it’s always the same time we were absolute smartasses who felt we could do no wrong.

The good thing, however, is life messes with us until there’s nothing left to do but say the three words no one ever wants to say: I was wrong. And indeed I was.

A teenage girl confession: In middle school, every Valentine’s Day I’d secretly compare the number of gifts I’d receive from boys with the number of gifts the other girls got. Every time a boy gave me a stuffed toy or a rose, I’d act all surprised and shy, like I didn’t want the attention, but deep down I was actually beaming with pride. I even had this shrine of stuffed toys in my room to remind me that boys liked me.

Today, the shrine of cotton-filled animals is nonexistent. I got rid of it two years ago when I finally realized that it was actually a waste of space and a slightly painful reminder of how petty my happiness was.

As I continue to grow up, more things lose their importance to me.

My ever-fluctuating weight. The daily dilemma of how-do-I-looks and does-this-look-good-on-mes. The life-consuming limbo of whether a guy, who I’m not sure I even like, likes me or not. The trendiness and up-to-dateness of my wardrobe. The number of friends I have on Facebook. The number of followers I have on Twitter. Yes, even the number of people following this blog. The number of likes, shares or retweets on my posts. What acquaintances who disguise themselves as friends say about me. What strangers who think of themselves as almighty critics think of me.

I’m sure that more things will be added on that list eventually. Money, hopefully, although to be honest it’s probably something I might have trouble with (Curse those flimsy pieces of paper with faces of dead presidents!)

But as these things lose their value, a few others gain theirs – things that I initially ignored and belittled.

My relationship with God and my faith. My family, especially my mother. Self-love (not to be confused with arrogance, conceitedness and vanity). Kindness for others (not to be confused with wanting to win the approval of others). And just being a good person and living a life that is good.

Whenever I am confronted with tokens from my past – old photographs, love letters, diary entries – I always go through the same cycle of emotions. A long wave of embarrassment because of how naive and ignorant and selfish I was. A brief current of nostalgia because those were the times when not knowing any better meant not knowing any worse either. A massive surge of pride because I compare myself now to how I was back then and I just know for sure that I’ve changed for the better.

And lastly, this tidal wave of excitement for the next moment of being able to completely let go of other things that hold me down in favor of things that lift my spirits up.

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3 thoughts on “And then suddenly, you realize that the things that were so important before mean so little to you now

  1. Kim September 15, 2013 / 4:29 am

    I know exactly what you mean. I went through this same thing in my mid-twenties, and I continue to grow and go through this same cycle. I relate to everything you said. One thing I will say is that since changing my priorities I’ve noticed the world really doesn’t like that, and it will put up a fight. These days I’m learning how to stand firm in what’s right in the face of opposition.

    • Kathryn G September 15, 2013 / 3:43 pm

      Yes, that’s definitely something I’ve noticed as well. And it can become really difficult because I think it’s human nature if not to want the approval of people then to not receive their criticism. So yes, to stand firm in what’s right is definitely something I want to achieve.

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